Friday, May 31, 2013

What it's really all about

It was good to put yesterday to bed. Some days are like that. They begin with such promise. But wind picks up, clouds move in quickly and before lunch, it's pouring. Full-on pouring. Thunder and lightning and all that promise is at the bottom of the street flooding onto Lakeway (the busy 4-lane city street at the bottom of our hill).

But I also know that such days serve a purpose. This morning as I was just minding mine (and apparently the Lord's) business in prayer, I suddenly thought of that young man who went canyon diving by himself a few years ago and got one of his hands caught under a massive boulder. He stood there for a couple of days watching working through the problem while his hand began to putrefy. Finally, long past his water, his strength and almost to the end of his life, he cut off his own hand. Then made his way down the the extremely narrow canyon, out to the edge of a cliff, belayed down with one arm, drank some pretty gnarly water, and was finally rescued, his one arm badly bleeding.

I'm sure I'm oversimplifying this very compelling, very complex story. But what whispered to my soul this morning as I prayed is that sometimes very hard days--with very difficult things in them--are God's ways of helping me lose my life to save it. Or to lose what I think my life should be--in my own puny brain--for what He knows it is meant to be. It's easy to look at difficult interactions and eschew them, blame the enemy for them. But we are meant to be pure. And maybe it's His great love for us that that is in the middle of such hard days because He's always about making us more like Him. And He'll cut off a limb if that limb is poisoning us. He tells us, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it but whoever loses their life for my sake will save it.  What good is it for you to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit your very soul?" (Luke 9: 23-25a)

I felt a little lighter when I climbed beneath the covers last night. It had been a hard day. But it was worth it. Yes, even that soon, I knew it. To become more like Him...I take such a day. Because that, after all, is what it's really all about.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Above my pay-grade

She might not like what I'm about to tell you, but my oldest was a bossy child. Bossy at two when she'd tell me, "Baby crying, get him." Bossy at four when she had two siblings to tend and she wanted all of us to be organized. Bossy once she started school and wanted all the other kids to follow the rules, do the right thing and stay in straight lines.

She was just so sure she knew what was best for them. Knew how to handle every situation. She fretted about her brother when they sat at their little table with coloring books open and he took crayons and scribbled all over the page, and about her sister because she liked doing her own drawings--even on the pages where the lines were clear and black. And she told them exactly how they were supposed to be acting in every situation. Yep, I spent half her childhood telling her, "Let me be the mother!"

I thought of this before I got out of be this morning because I was fretting praying about all kinds of things. If truth be told (which it will, of course, making that a very strange idiom!), I was simply telling God what He needed to do about each of my concerns. I was, in fact, bossing Him around. Yes, even Him. "Don't you see it?" I ask, as though He doesn't see all. "You've got to do it this way, in this time." And not because it's His will but simply because I want things organized to my satisfaction or am tired of waiting...

"Let me be God,"
I heard these words very clearly. As clearly as the words I used to say to E. I was the mother and knew what was best. With her 4 or 6 year old mind, she couldn't possibly see or know or understand. And it wasn't her job. Her place. It was above her pay-grade, so to speak. But it wasn't above mine. It was my job.

"Let me be God."
He is God. Obviously. So I must let Him BE God in my life and in the lives of those for whom I pray. So I can ask Him, but it's His job to act. It's above my pay-grade to tell Him how to do so. Yes, it's His job to BE God. It's His BEing God that means I can trust Him when I pray, trust that He will act for the best. In any and every situation. Whatever my worries, or my hopes and dreams, it's up to Him. There is not only safety but joy in that.

Amazingly, my year's verse has been Psalm 131: 1-2 (which was in my devotional again yesterday by no fluke at all!!!), which reminds me of exactly the same thing.

My heart is not proud, Lord,
my eyes are not haughty;
I do not concern myself with great matters
 or things too wonderful for me
But I have calmed myself 
and quieted my ambitions.
I am like a weaned child with its mother;
like a weaned child I am content.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Busy in the best way.

I've been busy. really, Really, REALLY busy. 
While in the middle of making this:

queen-sized quilt for my brother's birthday (last Friday), Thyrza was here for a week, and her daughter Sandy asked about my quilting. And because she's been under so much stress caring for Thyrza, and because we've been in it with her for so long, I felt instantly mortified that I'd never made a quilt for Sandy. So I put aside BB's quilt, pulled fabric from my stash and made this:

Started it on a Friday, finished it on Tuesday night, 
washed and dried it in time for them to carry back to Baltimore 
(where the temperature is in the 90s, not exactly quilt weather).

Went back to BB's quilt,
and did the actual quilting with him sitting beside me
watching his Boston Bruins beat some team in some 
NHL play-off game. By the way, hockey's inscrutable.

 Front.
 Back.
BB (with his 'play-off' beard)

But also busy going here
to celebrate BB's birthday. 
Getting here was no mean feat because we live north of where the now infamous bridge 
went down. But we're nothing if not intrepid (besides, most of the traffic was headed North when we were trying to go south), and we had a wonderful fish-y dinner.

When I say we, I include
A table with Lake Union out the window
My two lovely adult daughters, SK and E
My niece and her adorable family.



All of us.
If you look closely, you can see the Space Needle in the background.

And finally, gladly, busy with these
beautiful babies who are my great-niece and nephews.
That's right, my sister and brother are grandparents now. 
We're looking at a whole new generation in our family. 
I find them adorable. Ridiculously, endlessly adorable.
I can hardly wait to see who they'll become.
And you see how smiley these three generations of my family are here?
It's because I was busy.
Busy making an absolute idiot of myself.
And I'm not afraid to say so. 
I was playing peek-a-boo behind my nephew's kitchen island. 
Waving my arms like a lunatic. 
It's hard work to make babies smile (or even look) at the camera.
But in the process, 
I inadvertently made every adult smile more naturally
than in any photo on record.

So worth it.
Yep, absolutely worth it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Awkward and Awesome

Thursdays are 'Awkward and Awesome' days for my daughter and her blogger friends, which sounds like a really good idea to me this morning.

Awkward:

  • Somehow the only set of keys to our Highlander got lost between the time Thyrza's son-in-law pulled into our drive-way and Beve took over to back out of it to take the visitors south to SeaTac airport . Four adults, one frail, anicient woman spent over an hour looking for them before they were discovered in the trash bag in the car. 
  • The number of weeds in our front garden. And my inability to do much about them.
  • Deciding last Friday I should make a quilt for Thyrza's daughter, Sandy, who has made a sacrifice of great love in the last year caring for her aging mother, bearing the brunt of Thyrza's forgetfulness, which appears as anger most of the time.
  • Also having a quilt to finish for my baby brother's birthday, which is...TOMORROW! YIKES!!!
  • The quilting project I planned to do by next week, but certainly won't.
  • How messy my house is because of all this quilting.
  • How much my body rebels against all this quilting.
  • How much my brain wants to work while my body rebels.
  • Sigh.
Awesome:
  • Thyrza's visit went pretty smoothly. Grampie knew her more days than he didn't.  At least that's her story, so I'm sticking to it.
  • I got Sandy's quilt done. She loved it!
  • I'll (hopefully) get BB's quilt done.
  • Family guests this weekend (even in my messy house--enter at your own risk!).
  • A huge family gathering on Memorial weekend, complete with all three babies of the next generation. I can hardly wait to see them all together. Or to get my hands on them (if they'll let me!). SOOO looking forward to it.
  • Many fun outings in the next week. A birthday celebration on Puget Sound. A trip to California for my youngest nephew's high school graduation. Yep, summer is heating up.
  • Deep sigh. Of contentment.
Now I've got to go, there's a quilt begging to be made!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Bloomin' staff--repost


Pastors have been on my mind lately. Pastors and the enormous burden of their call, the weight they carry around with them. I've been privileged to walk alongside several good, humble pastors and know well this weight. Know how they carry it, how stretched they feel by what God has asked of them, by the privilege and responsibility. And the inexorable 'nothing less will do' that comes with a true call. A conversation a few weeks ago with one such pastor friend, made me think of this post I wrote a few years ago. So I hand it over to you again.


I've been reading the Books of Moses lately.  Keep coming face to face with both God on the mountain but also with the gritty humans at the base as well.  The base humans grumbling and complaining for forty straight years, it seems.  Or maybe forty straight thousand years is more like it.  Anyway...Numbers, chapter 16 and 17 holds a great story.

There were many among those Israelits who wanted to be like Aaron, who felt they were 'holy' enough to be priest, were certain they had the gifts necessary to serve in the tent that housed God's temple.  The mantle of authority would fit their shoulders well, and that staff of power?  Their hands were made to wield it.  So they complained a little; more than a little.  Some of them even went so far as to try to take that power that wasn't theirs to take, authority (to use the proper word) ordained by God.  Called by God.  And the earth swallowed some of them up alive.  And scorched 250 more of them, leaving only the stolen censors of incense, which they'd taken from God's true priests.

So God finally settled it once and for all.  He showed the whole nation which tribe was set apart for the priesthood, with all the responsibilities in the temple, and all the privileges as well (getting to eat the sacrificial lamb and go into the holy of holies, not having to fight or do manual labor, to name a few).  A good thing God decided to make a public display to reveal this, if you ask me.  I mean, up until then, God had told Moses how things would be done, but Moses apparently had some kind of speech impediment, so Aaron was his mouthpiece.  Can you imagine the people if Aaron stood before an entire nation and said, "God says that I am to be the priest, and my line--the line of Levi--the priesthood."  Sounds a little fishy, and even the most devout among them--namely Caleb and Joshua--might have been skeptical of a so-called God's pronouncement coming from Aaron's own mouth.

So this time, after the scorching of those who'd take it for themselves, God decided to show the truth. He told them to take twelve dry staffs from the tribal leaders from the twelves tribes of Israel. The one that sprouted in the morning will be the line of the priests.  The next morning, eleven of those staffs were as dry as kindling but Aaron's not only sprouted, but blossomed, and bore almonds, no less!  Case closed.

It occurred to me as I read this that we often have folks going into the priesthood or ministry with dry staffs.  I don't necessary understand all the reasons one might hanker for such a job.  I mean, it may be the hardest job I know and that's for people who are certain that their staff had sprouted.  I mean, that they'd been called.  But what if one is to attempt it with no sense of anything other than that this might be a good way to be close to the holy-of-holies, where one can eat the best lambs, live on the tithes and not have to fight.  To attempt such a calling with only one's own desire for the mantle of authority and desire for power is a dangerous proposition. The earth probably won't swallow any of them whole nor burn them alive, but metaphorically I think it isn't far off what might happen to a person who tries to pastor a flock without being called to the task.

Maybe if we took this seriously, and really believed that the priesthood/the pastoral ministry was a blooming-staff calling, ala Numbers, we'd be less likely to make the decision ourselves.  In fact, we'd do everything we could NOT to be in that position.  And--and this is just as important--we'd take better care of those whose calling had come with flowering staffs and almonds.  We'd stop running them so ragged that they got wrung out and needed out.  Maybe, if we really understood what this blooming ministry call is all about, we'd actually trust in those who wear the mantle of God's authority, and wield the staff of His power.  Just imagine the kind of Body life we'd have then. I think we'd all walk more humbly together if we really got this.  Because it's really God's authority and God's power I'm talking about.  Not a person's.  And a pastor who gets this can only wield the tools given for the office by exercising spiritual deep knee-bends,if you know what I mean. That is, spending so much time in prayer he or she gets calloused knees.  And the flock's 'job' is to be exercising the same way--praying for their pastor, praying for that holy staff to keep blooming.

Your spiritual health is your pastor's main business.  It's what he/she's about.  Thinking about it, caring about it, praying for you.  So who takes care of him or her?  Who prays for your pastor while he/she is praying for you?  Do you?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Death by degrees

There's a post in my brain, shaking itself at me like the rattles on a rattlesnake, but every time I put my hands to the keys, I spend more time punching the delete button than composing the post. So eventually I just throw up my hands and back away. This has happened too many times to count in the last week, too many. And so, though I still really think it's in me to write--it must be, I can't stop thinking about it--apparently, this isn't the time. I just can't write my way in. And any writer knows how essential this 'way in' is. There has to be a jumping off point. For now, though, it'll be filed under 'post possibilities' in my overactive brain until that 'ah-ha!' moment that makes it all work.

Meanwhile, back in the real world where I live, Grampie's wife is visiting with her daughter and son-in-law. It's their twilight song of a trip west. Thyrza is 94 1/2 years old now and equally frail in mind and body. But she was determined enough that her daughter thought they should do it. Grampie has entered the last stages of Alzheimer's now. He no longer processes what is being said to him all the time, no longer recognizes even those he knows the very best. One day last week when Beve and I were visiting, he leaned over to me, pointed at Beve, and said, "He looks a lot like [my son] Steve."
I smiled at him. "That's because he IS Steve, Grampie."
He frowned his sideways frown, looked hard at Beve, then the sunshine broke. "Steve!"

The first time they saw Grampie, they woke him from a nap, and he knew each of them. Knew them so well that Thyrza told me later that night that she was sure we'd been exaggerating how bad he is.
The next day, however, he not only didn't know any of them, he didn't even want to talk to them, and kept wheeling himself away. We've seen him do this a time or two dozen. I saw my mother do it as well. It's all part of the process.

So it's been a trip of ups and downs. Three more days. Then Thyrza gets on a plane back to Maryland for the last time. It'll be hard for her, but the time of it being hard for Grampie is long gone now. He won't miss her. A couple of weeks ago he told me he thought his wife was dead. "She's not," I told him. "She's coming to see you." But I think she's already dead in his deadening mind. This might sound harsh to say, but that's how it looks from here.

I hate Alzheimer's. I do. And I don't use the word hate easily. But I've been around this disease too much. I hate it and it makes me sad because it's death by degrees while the body still lives. Someone like Grampie might live a long time still--he eats like a horse (though he can't eat if there are people around because it's too much stimuli and he's distracted, and sometime soon, he won't know how to eat by himself at all) and is so strong it take two aides to move or dress or change him. But inside--where it counts-- he's going, going, gone.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Not defining, but being His

So I write.
I'm almost never at a loss for words. My fingers can fly across the keys faster than my mouth can move, and trust me, my mouth can move pretty fast. My family always reminds me that I'm a 'hand-talker', that if I had to sit on my hands in a conversation, it'd be a great mute button. Still, I write. Always have plenty to say.
But in the last few days, as I've been pondering the words of a devotional I read a few days ago, I find myself deleting more than creating.

This morning it hits me that there's no need to re-invent the wheel. If the short paragraph cut so sharply through the layers of my 20-21st century self, why shouldn't it do the same to those who read this blog?
So I simply copy the words from my well-worn Celtic Daily Prayer.

May 14th
"If you had asked Peter for a good, clear definition of what an Apostle was, and what the duties of and Apostle were, he would have had to answer, "I don't have the faintest idea...all I know is that I am one! Watch me and find out!" The label--the name--was there only as a means to describe what those men already were. The title sought to proclaim what they had already been doing...organically. The name by which they were called only described what the Holy Spirit had already done in them! So what were the twelve? They were men who lived in the conscious presence of Christ. Furthermore, the Apostles had developed a 'habit' during over three years with Jesus--the habit of always being in the Lord's presence--and they kept the habit even after He ascended! Is that impossible? No, it is not. Eight years after Pentecost the Apostles were still experiencing that same intimate relationship with Christ. They were still living constantly in His presence."        Gene Edwards                                                      

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Seeking You

In the quiet, Lord,
I seek you.
Garden of Gethsemane.
Photo by John Mason

Divided flesh, 
stone cold bones,
loves of this earth,
my own face in the mirror
Yet you call me to
seek you with 
all my heart.

Five minutes awake,
tasks, 
hunger for food,
even theories about you,  
chasing of self
crowd you out
but I
seek you with 
all my soul.

Business, random,
meandering
ridiculous,
even intellect,
 curiosity,
prisms of self
shatter when
I seek you with
all my mind.

As weak as I am,
as sorry a state,  
dependent,
at your mercy,
a pauper without you 
in body as in life,
I glory to 
seek you
with all my strength.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Gaining no pain?

Just got home from another marathon day in Seattle. I'm going to drive a groove in that freeway before too long. Why did I sign up for all this medical treatment, anyway?...Oh wait, I didn't.

That's really how it feels, you know. You walk into an appointment--just for a consult--and by the time you've been prodded, poked, had your MRIs, X-rays, blood-work, and medical records looked through, you've agreed to a dozen more procedures, appointments and torture sessions. OK, maybe not exactly torture sessions, but just around the block from it. At least from where I'm lying on the table.  I won't tell you the things that have been done or promised in just the last week, because it takes a strong stomach. A really strong stomach.

All in the name of healing.
Or at least in the name of cessation of pain.

So tonight I'm weary. Weary of what lies ahead. What I must do to participate in my own healing--just in the driving alone. I've lived with chronic pain a long time. But as the doctor left the room for a moment today, she said what might have been a toss-away remark that all my nerve pain comes from the same source, and if we can fix that, I will have no pain. Tears instantly began to pool. NO pain. NO pain at all. "If we can fix that..." So what does my weariness mean balanced by this possibility? What am I willing to do for it?

This is what I face. This living possibility.

And along side it is the living possibility--which she was more clear about when she returned to speak directly to me--that NO pain is unlikely but less pain is the goal.

I can live with that.
After all, I've lived with this all these years...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Anniversary, Bevie!

Though it's Mother's Day, it's something more important in my life. Without May 12th, I wouldn't be a mother.
29 years ago, I limped down the aisle on my daddy's arm to greet this tall, handsome man with whom I'd share my life with. I'd broken a small bone in my right foot, and though you can't tell in this photo, by the time I took these heels off, it was swollen all over the sides. But I wasn't about to be in a cast. The dress was too long and the cost to hem it pricey, and since I had to buy shoes anyway, I bought higher heels than I'd ever worn before or since. No reason not to, after all. In fact I needed all the height I could get. The photographer thought so, too. She thought it clever to actually show how dissimilar we are in height, which made us chuckle, nose to nose, eye to eye.

I've said all my married life that I have to take advantage of every step, because it's the only time I have a hope of seeing eye to eye with Beve.  And, oddly, the neck problems I have are the direct result of being 14 inches shorter than my Beve, of spending too much time staring up at him. When the doctor who did a steroid injection Friday (from my collar bone to my spine--imagine that needle) heard that Beve's 6'7", and I'm 5'5", he said, "Yep, that'll do it." But...

It's worth it. I wouldn't change a thing about my Beve. He's the perfect height for me. The best gift--after God Himself--I've ever received.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

YOU must follow me

Have you ever looked around and measured your life against others? Wondered why some people, some whole families seem to pass through this world unscathed? I have. I wonder about it. Even when I wouldn't change my life for anyone else's, wouldn't want anyone else's husband, children, body, or life experiences, I still wonder. It's human to do so, clear back through the New Testament to Genesis to do so. That wondering, though, at least some of the time, shifts into envy then spitting mad, I'm going to do something about this jealousy until someone's cast out into the cold, or ends up dead. Ask Esau, ask Abel.

Siblings have always been competitive. Our older two could compete about every thing from who got to the car first to who could throw a rock over the house to about a billion things a day. And actual sports...don't get me started. I think my recurrent phrase when they were children was, "It doesn't matter who's first." Probably not surprisingly, our youngest child doesn't have a single competitive gene in her (the day E and J were throwing rocks over the house, SK, knowing she couldn't, tried to throw one front to back over our van, and merely managed to shatter the rear window!).  She's just a little peace-maker at heart (she gets that from me, but don't tell anyone I told you).

However, competing, comparing, evaluating, judging isn't limited to siblings, obviously. And that comparing, or questioning about others is as old as creation as well. I want to stop a moment at a seminal moment--the last intimate moment of Jesus with Peter and John in the gospels. It's just after the big fish fry Jesus hosted on the beach after the disciples, not quite certain about their future, had returned to their boats. Jesus had played host to other meals--when He fed the multitudes on the hillside, the Last Supper before His death. But this was different. This time the risen Christ actually made the fire for the fish. Fish that He alone knew where to find. I love this. I'm married to a man who has a cell-deep hosting gene. This moment on the beach reminds me, reminds ALL the Marthas of the world, I think, that even this work is His work, not only blessed, but actually done by Him.

But though that alone is something to linger on, I have the post-breakfast moment in mind this morning. It's a story often told. And I have to admit, I've thought about it a great deal over the course of my life. Yes, the fact that there's a triad here represents the three denials--commentaries point this out. But I'm more concerned with what is going on between them in this moment.
He asks Peter three times, "Do you love me? More than these? Do you love me? Do you really love me?" And as Peter, in affirming his belief (no small thing) that Jesus already knows he loves Jesus, grows increasingly frustrated and 'hurt', according to the text, Jesus says, "Then feed my sheep. Take care of my sheep. Feed my sheep."

Then there is this, this unbelievable statement of Peter's coming pain, coming death (as John immediately clarifies). This is where Jesus was getting to all along. Yes, I know you love me, and I want to make sure YOU know, so I can give you this glimpse into your life. "Very truly I tell you when you were younger, you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands and somone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go."
Peter is clearly aghast at these words. And...
that old competitive gene kicks in. "What about him?" he asks Jesus, looking at John. "Tell me what he's going to suffer?"

And Jesus says, "What is that to you? YOU follow me. You don't get to know about his life."
Peter was fortunate he got this glimpse into his own, to tell the truth. Most of us don't get that.

But the lesson is still the same. We only get to know about our own lives. And we only get to live them. No matter what Jesus asks of us in our own lives, no matter how hard it seems, our call is to follow Him. Not looking to the right or to the left. It doesn't matter what lives others have, what they get or don't get.
"You must follow me."

That's what is comes down to. There is no competition in the Kingdom. Our only goal is to..." run the race set before us, casting our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, scorning its shame and now has seated at the right hand of the throne of God."

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A simple jar of clay


 "We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from ourselves." (2 Corinthians 4:7).  I've never had trouble thinking of myself as a simple jar of clay, one made more for utility than decoration.  I know what I am, what I am not, so this verse has long sung to me in a key I know well.  But when Paul writes of this clay vessel and the treasure within, it helps to understand that in in the first century, crude clay pots were made for a specific purpose.  Silver and gold, obtained in war, were melted down and poured into these pots.  These pots were like a safety deposit box, hiding immeasurable wealth within earthen vases.  When the jars of clay were broken, the silver or gold was revealed.

Knowing this makes Paul's words even more meaningful, doesn't it?  The verses following this one speak of being pressed on all sides, but not crushed and broken. But in some real sense, which is born out in Paul's lists of sufferings found in chapters 6, 11, and 12, it is in our brokenness that His glory is most clear to the world.  I don't know exactly why this is so, I don't know why God chose to use the 'foolish of the world to shame the wise and the weak things of the world to shame the strong;' it certainly isn't the way any human would do it.  But if there's one thing I know, it's that God's ways are not our ways, and that we're created to reflect His glory, rather than giving out our own measly light.  Therefore, if it takes my brokenness to reveal Him in my life, if it's only when I'm chipped and cracked and fragmented (which are all words these women used yesterday to describe the condition of the clay pot that is themselves), that Christ is revealed, so be it.  In some fundamental way, because of sin, because I live on this earth and bear the marks of Eve in my body, I will never be any more than a mended clay pot.  A forgiven one.

It's only in a new pot, in a new body, in my Father's House, that both the treasure and the pot willl shine in equal measure.  Well, maybe that's not so.  Maybe...even then I'll be a simple jar of clay.  But what will be reflected in me, what will shine will be like the bright morning star.  I can only imagine.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Ebenezer

Friday was Random Journal Day, but I'm late to the party because I spent the weekend here:

Relaxing at our Family cabin and its 11 acres on Whidbey Island. My cousin, who lives up there, has it groomed to perfection right now, and with everything blooming it's like a private, enchanted garden. Sorry I didn't take pictures down at the bluff (forgot my camera) where the views (and his work) is so breath-taking that SK wants to get married there someday. But I have plenty of other photos in the expansive land by the cabin, so here are a few more for you who aren't my FB friends (sorry for the redundancy for those of you who are!).




Ok, now to the task at hand--dipping into one of my journals. 

Oddly, I flipped my 'Spring 2008' journal open to May 6, five years ago tomorrow. As was usual in those days, I was concerned with my mother.  It was a daily thing, those conversations, and often as well, a cause for daily reflection, daily wrestling, daily working through, daily coming to peace with her, not as a woman with dementia, but as the woman she'd been--my mother. 
But I've written of this before.

So it's the first paragraph of this journal entry that I want to re-share here. There is no context for my words because I don't write them in the journal either. How often I've done this in my life--just started in, knowing that I understood why and what I was talking about, not thinking about the future me who'd read and wonder. And perhaps share these words.
The entry simply starts like this:

Tuesday, May 6

The Ebenezer stone of 1 Samuel 7: 12--"Thus far the Lord has helped us."
There's a large stone at the northwest corner of our front yard. In fact, it's the cornerstone now for the flagstone patio and rock wall sitting on it. Covered with moss and plants, it's no longer as prominent or visible as it used to be, but it hasn't moved. It's still solidly holding up the wall. In a way, in truth, it's our Ebenezer. "Thus far, the Lord has helped us." There is strong, weighty evidence of His presence every step along our way. We didn't erect that monument, but when the rest of the yard was being demolished, we were clear about making that rock the cornerstone. Ok, to be realistic, how could it be moved? Really. We're not talked about a stone in a shoe here, but a massive rock! Thank God. A massive rock. That's the Ebenezer. That's the rock on which we build this place. Nothing flimsy that might crumble in the wind. Storms of life won't do anything to this rock, this Ebenezer of God's faithfulness. 

And that's the thing about Ebenezers: they point backwards, reminding us of God's faithfulness. They stand firmly in the presence so we also see that faithfulness in the very midst of whatever we're doing today--good, bad or ugly--that's their job. To stand today.  But they also point us to our right future. They're the foundation for what we shall do tomorrow.  As solid as rocks are, as Ebenezers, as the Cornerstone we build our lives on, they aren't inactive. They work. They stand, They hold us up, they remind us of God's faithfulness, they point us toward Him.

Thus Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shem. He named it Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far the Lord has helped us."

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A get away

Beve and I are off to the family cabin for the weekend, a kind of pre-anniversary mini-getaway with our close friends. Our anniversary falls a week from now, co-incidentally on Mother's Day. Just the other day Beve was lamenting the poor planning of that. But we weren't thinking about mothers back then, not our own and certainly not me becoming one.  We were sitting in the snug little room where I lived in Epe, Holland, in early February, and chose two Saturdays in May as our options. When my mother checked with the church, it turned out May 12th was the only one available. Such a romantic way to choose a wedding date, don't you think?

Anyway, we're off for the weekend to spend some time with our friends who live such busy lives it takes a matrix and a whole lot of pencils with erasers to find time together. But we've done it. We're doing it. And despite their proximity to my family's cabin, they've never been there. I look forward to showing them the smells and sounds and sights of my large family's gathering place. Our gluing place, you might call that cabin.

By gluing place, I mean that it made us closer than we would otherwise have been. We're too spread out in age and interests, politics and faith. But we have this place. So the notion of family the place created has carried on to the next generation, and hopefully, to the next.  And I think I'm also a little restored when I walk among those trees on that property. Ours isn't a perfect family. You should have known my grandmother. Better yet, probably not. But sense that those trees made our place completely cut off from anyone else, it was sweet. Green meadow, apple trees bearing fruit, blackberry bushes crawling with berries, a path cut through trees that arch like a canopy overhead, and a sudden clearing at the high bluff overlooking the sound. No matter what kind of fracas had gone on inside, no matter how pouty my grandmother had been, the place always restored.

Still does. I hope it does for our friends as well.

And it's supposed to be a warm, sunny weekend!

See you Sunday.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

His word I have hid in my heart


In honor of a beautiful May Day, I thought I'd invite you to join me on our deck for my morning tea with God and the dogs. All the necessary ingredients are visible on this table: my Bible, journal, devotional, notepaper (for scribbling snippets of thought), my tea and the Chuck-it. Yes, the Chuck-it is as important as anything else if I want to have peace enough to commune with God. As you can tell, Kincade was getting a bit impatient that the rhythm of throw-fetch-throw-fetch and repeat had been interrupted for me to take this picture. In fact, you can even see the shadow of the tennis ball by his front paw. Yep, he definitely thinks my mornings are his domain and his only.

I have to admit that in one way only is this a staged picture. The gray box in the corner isn't something I use in my daily devotionals. However, what I read in my devotional got me to thinking about it. The devotional talked about 'the venerable Bede' (whose name is always preceded by that adjective). This historian of the early church had memorized so much scripture it was like muscle memory to him. He didn't have to go searching through a concordance to find something that fit with his words, he knew the Word. A single word was enough to take him to a verse which made him think of another verse and so on.

So I got to thinking about this grey mottled box I've carried around since high school. I don't remember where I got it now--it has been almost 42 years since I became a follower of Jesus--but it is my Bible memory verse box. I was privileged to be taught by amazing Young Life leaders in my baby-days of faith and they were strong advocates of the Navigators memory program. Though my family wasn't poor by any stretch, for some reason I felt I couldn't (or at least didn't) ask for money to buy these small packets of memory verses, so I created my own on 3x5 cards. Memorized them then filed them in this box.
Most of the verses are memorized in the New American Standard Bible, with a sprinkling of The Living Bible thrown in. When I went to college, and got a degree in Biblical Studies, this was something of a hindrance because the translation used was RSV, and I had to re-memorize (as well as add) so many verses. But these earliest verses are the ones stuck in my brain. Stuck like glue. And I thank God for those leaders who drilled the importance of this practice into my head, and I praise God for the memory that isn't my doing but is simply a gift from Him. I say this again--this is not my doing but it's been to my benefit. Praise God.

I will admit, I do use a concordance. A whole lot. Usually I can't remember chapter and verse of the words that are running through my brain. And unfortunately, these days I use TNIV, so the concordance doesn't always match the word with the words I'm thinking. 

 Memorizing scripture is still as much of my time with Him as reading, praying or drinking tea (though I no longer add to this box). It's worth the effort and reaps a reward of heart and action: 'His word I have hid in my heart, that I might not sin against you!' And for that, I thank Sam, Kristi and all those others who started  me in this practice so many years ago.